Chapter 1 : Chapter One
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“What’s it like? Being one of the most recognizable wizards in the world?”
Harry tossed his head, laughter bubbling from his lips.
“Yeah, yeah. I get it.”
“I know,” Harry murmured. “I know you have it much worse than me.”
“It’s much worse without you.”
Harry couldn’t help the small smile the crept up, “I know the feeling.”
“You seem to be doing alright.”
Harry could feel his companion pulling back, creating much needed distance between them.
“I am. But what part of alright is good enough? I’ve always been alright, but-“
“But with her, it’s better than alright? It’s good enough?”
The silence stretched between them. Harry could hear the bats swooping over the Forbidden Forrest, the Black Lake lapping at the rock lined shore, and his companion’s slow, even breathing.
“But, she isn’t you.”
His companion’s breath caught.
The space between them closed.
And Harry woke with a start.
“Bloody hell,” Ron laughed from the bed next to Harry, “you look like you just saw Hermione’s morning hair!”
“I heard that!” A shrill voice sounded from outside the door.
Harry and Ron stifled their laughter so their curly haired friend wouldn’t hear them. Too bad for the two of them that Hermione took that opportunity to open the door with a fling, “Did you think I wouldn’t hear that little remark, Ronald? And what about you, Harry? Are you having more nightmares?”
Harry and Ron both looked sheepish.
“Now,” she continued. “We have to get to the train. If you two aren’t dressed and downstairs in forty-five minutes, I am taking you to the station in your knickers. Understand?”
“Yes,” they chorused.
As Hermione shut the door firmly behind her, Harry climbed out of bed, “I’ll shower first.”
Ron flopped back down on his pillows, “Great! I’ll nap!”
Harry rolled his eyes, knowing that Ron couldn’t see him; he trudged into the bathroom, the dream still haunting him. They were close, but not close enough. They were never close enough.
Twenty minutes later, Harry left the bathroom amid a cloud of steam. No amount of hot water could rinse away the residue of his dream. He slumped down on his bed, towel securely around his waist, and head in his hands.
“It’s that bad?”
You have no idea.
Harry didn’t even bother to raise his head.
“Harry,” Hermione’s voice was soft. “How bad are they?”
“They aren’t what you think, ‘Mione. They aren’t about the war, or Voldemort, or blood, or anything like that.”
I can handle those.
“Then what, Harry? What’s so bad that you can’t come to me – to us – when you can’t sleep? When you’re up pacing the first floor at three in the morning? What is so bad?”
“One day I’ll tell you.”
He heard Hermione cross the room and felt the bed dip beside him.
“You know you can tell me anything, right?”
Harry leaned over, resting his head against hers. They sat like that, his tousled curls dampening her caramel waves for what felt like forever.
Finally his hand snaked into hers, “I’m living a-”
“What in Merlin’s saggy old pants is happening in this bloody bedroom?”
“Ginny!” Hermione exclaimed, jumping up, knocking Harry aside.
Harry chose not to respond, simply looking helplessly into Ginny’s eyes.
She’s never going to believe me.
“Gin. Gin. Ginny! Look at me!” Hermione practically threw herself in front of Ginny as she tried to leave. “Whatever you think is happening here is not what is actually happening here!”
Ginny shoved past her frantic friend and rushed down the stairs, knocking her brother out of the way. Ron’s buttered toast bounced off the banister and fell to the entryway floor.
“Bloody hell, Gin. What’s the matter with her?” Ron directed that last bit to Hermione, as Ginny was already out of earshot.
“She thinks – well, she thinks I’m getting intimate with Harry!”
Ron spit out the toast he was chewing, “She thinks what? Why?”
Harry couldn’t hear any more of the conversation, Hermione’s shrillness had quieted and all he could hear was the occasional protest from Ron. It didn’t matter, none of it mattered. He’d almost let Hermione in on his secret – on their secret. Dressing quickly, Harry shrunk all of his and Ron’s belongings and put them in Hermione’s backpack. He was constantly reminded how lucky they were that Hermione perfected the Undetectable Extension Charm. Exiting the bedroom, he jogged down the stairs. Ignoring Hermione and Ron’s questioning looks, he handed Hermione her backpack.
“We’re going to be late for the train. We can talk more there.”
The other two nodded and followed him down the stairs and out of the front door.
“A muggle . . . what’s this called?” Ron asked.
“Taxi,” Hermione laughed, sliding across the back seat.
“There are so many people,” Ron grunted, pushing through the crowd, trying to reach the train.
Harry nodded in agreement and then realized that neither Ron nor Hermione could see him.
“Of course it’s crowded,” Hermione responded. “There are twice as many first years, remember?”
“What?” Ron stopped stupidly.
“Oh, I found you three!” Harry heard Neville exclaim from behind them. “We’ve got a car to ourselves.”’
“A car?” It was Hermione’s turn to stop in her tracks. “To ourselves?”
Could she sound anymore like Ron?
“Well, not us four,” Neville corrected. “Us as in the returning seventh years.”
“Splendid!” Harry heard Ron shout as he pumped a fist in the air.
The trio followed Neville as he weaved through the throng of Hogwart’s students clamoring to get on the Hogwart’s Express. Harry kept his head down as they weaved between groups of people. Luckily, they were all too focused on their own children or the fact that they were returning to their once broken school or whatever else they had going on in their lives. He liked disappearing into the crowd, being forgotten. He used to hate it back when he was at the Dursley’s, back before Hogwart’s. But now, he would give anything to disappear into Muggle society – to be forgotten – even if it was only for a day, because now everywhere he went he was ‘Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived’ or ‘Harry Potter: Wizarding World’s Savior’. He just wanted to be Harry Potter: The Boy Nobody Knew. He wanted to make his own decisions, live his own life. Climbing up the steps into the last car, Harry followed his friends into an empty compartment.
The compartment quickly filled once Seamus and Dean joined them. Chatter and laughter filled the compartment, but Harry was only halfway participating as he split his attention the inside of the compartment and the people walking by. He kept hoping for a glimpse of –
“Harry, Ron and I were going to find the snack trolley. Join us?”
He could tell Hermione’s smile was strained as she peered down at him imploringly. He almost nodded no, knowing that she wanted to talk about that morning, but they needed to clear the air.
“Sure, ‘Mione. That sounds brilliant.”
“Oy, Harry,” Seamus started, “grab us some, will ya?”
Harry nodded, shoving the proffered money into his pocket, before leading Ron and Hermione out of the compartment and into the surprisingly empty hallway.
“We are going to find an empty compartment and discuss this morning. No, Ronald,” Hermione put her hand up as the redhead opened his mouth to speak. “We are doing it before the sweets.”
Luck was in Ron’s favor however, as the end of the carriage opened and the trolley was pushed through. Ron hurried over before Hermione could stop him and loaded his pockets with Chocolate Frogs and pumpkin pastries. Harry got a chocolate Frog, some fairy floss, and popcorn (a new addition this year) before asking the trolley lady to return Seamus his money and to load the compartment full of every kind of sweet she had. He prepaid much to Hermione’s bemusement. They’d been over it numerous times in the last year. He had more money than he, his kids, and their kids could ever spend and so he liked to treat his friends. Ron was reluctant at first, but finally gave in when he realized Harry was not going to give up. Hermione found it amusing because Harry, Ron, Neville, and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix were awarded repartitions for damages, allowing them and their families to live more than comfortably for many generations.
Squeezing by the trolley, Hermione began to peer into windows, but all of the compartments had students in them. Sighing, she pulled the two boys into the male lavatory.
“Seriously, ‘Mione.? The loo?”
Harry laughed, the first time since the confusion this morning. Ron always acted like any little inconvenience was the end of the world. It never failed to be funny.
Hermione locked the door before leaning against it. They both stared at Harry. Long moments passed, muffled sounds of students calling up and down the corridor filtering through the door.
Taking a deep breath, Harry began, “Ginny thinks I’ve been cheating on her. She thinks that’s why I didn’t want us dating during the war – that Hermione was the reason.”
Ron paled. He too had thought that and it had driven them apart.
“But that never happened. Nothing ever happened. I told Ginny that.”
Ron slumped against the mirror, but he looked directly at Harry when he spoke, “Nothing?”
“Nothing!” Harry and Hermione practically screamed.
“Then tell her.”
“Ron’s got a point, Harry. You need to talk to her.”
Harry knew they were both right, but he also knew that nothing he said would matter. Ginny didn’t believe him. And why should she?
“I will. Tonight.”
Hermione smiled and moved to unlock the door, holding it open for the boys. Harry went through first and walked right into Draco Malfoy.
Draco raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow, “All three of you? My, my Potter, you are into some kinky stuff.”
Harry smirked up at him before brushing by without a comment. Ron and Hermione followed him, blatantly ignoring the Slytherin.
Draco shut the door behind him and leaned against it. He wasn’t prepared to see Harry yet, but he handled it well.
I did handle it well, didn’t I?
Turning away from the mirror, Draco slipped off his jumper and pulled on his school uniform. Deftly buttoning the white shirt, he winced as one of his fingers brushed a fresh bandage. He knew there were ways to heal them, but he didn’t care. He needed the reminder.
Pushing away the thoughts, he slipped on his jacket. Forgoing a tie, he pinned the Head Boy badge to his lapel and gathered his things. Slipping out of the toilet, he joined the students milling in the hallway in an attempt to reach the carriage in which he and Blaise had been sitting. The badge helped clear a path some, but more so it his signature Malfoy hair and cold expression that opened up a path before him. Too many people assumed they knew Draco Malfoy, knew what he was on about, what made him tick. It was tough, but Draco resisted the urge to snort.
If they only knew . . .
“Seriously, man. Could you take any longer to piss?”
“What a warm greeting. And they say Slytherins are rude.”
Blaise laughed, tossing popcorn at Draco. He laughed harder when Draco lunged and managed to catch a kernel in his mouth. Blaise stood and applauded as the blonde took a dramatic bow. Draco hastily sat down when he heard another person applauding behind him.
Pansy was lazily leaning against the open door, smirking at the two of them. She’d changed in the past year, in large part to moving out her parents’ house and away from their influence. She’d changed her hair, her makeup, her everything. Once long and black, her hair was now angular - What’d she call it? Bobbit? No, just bob? - and bright blonde, not his level of platinum. Thank goodness. She lined her eyes in thick black ink and painted her lips a dark berry; it looked good with her new, darker wardrobe. She was currently garbed in sky high strappy heels, tight black pants, her school uniform button up, and Slytherin blazer tied around her waist.
“School issuing new uniforms?”
Pansy played with her stack of bracelets, ignoring Draco’s jibe and accompanying smirk, “Where’d you summer?”
Blaise rolled his eyes, “D and I went to America, the Maldives, and Dubai.”
“That’s awesome. I stayed in Italy. Love the culture, love the shopping, don’t love the men.”
She flopped down in a haze of perfume and continued to expel on the demerits of Italian men until the train hissed to a stop at the Hogsmead station.
“Ah, we’ve arrived, my dears!”
And just like that, she swept out of their compartment and into the crowded hallway.
“She’s something, isn’t she?”
Draco looked at Blaise liked he’d sprouted a third eye, “That’s putting it lightly!”
They joined the flow of people exiting the train as Draco continued, “But at least she’s finally herself. That’s all we wanted growing up, remember?”
“To be our own people.”
Draco nodded, “I’m working on it, you?”
Draco nodded again before clapping Blaise on the back and heading to the first carriage. The letter that delivered his Head Boy badge had instructed him to do so. He ducked inside, expecting it to be full of prefects, but only Hermione Granger sat inside. He’d only briefly seen her outside the toilet, but he took this opportunity to observe her closely.
Like Pansy, she’d changed her hair and come into a style of her own. He had always teased her about her frizzy mane of curls, but the truth was he had always adored them and the way they bounced and swung when she moved. But her new hair was wonderful, too. The curls were no longer frizzy, but loose and shiny, hanging almost to the middle of her stomach. Unlike Pansy, she wore her proper school uniform and her makeup was more subtly applied. The effect was still striking. He realized she was watching him, too. He knew what she would see: hair slightly too shaggy and uniform missing its tie.
“Thank you,” Her voice was clear.
He wasn’t sure what to say, so he merely raised an eyebrow.
“For what you did during the war, I mean. Harry told us – well, Ron and I, anyway. And, I – uh – well, thank you. It was incredibly brave and I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you and your mom.”
That was - unexpected.
She sounded so sincere that he couldn’t help it he smiled at her.
What a smile…
Hermione had never seen a smile so genuinely thankful. How many people knew? How many people even knew?
She only realized when she’d spoken out loud when he answered, “Harry, Dumbledore, McGonagall, and my mother. Well, now you and Weasley, too.”
The carriage started to move and they traveled in silence toward the school, until Draco spoke again.
“She’s planning on telling the school tonight. You know, explain why she decided to make me Head Boy.”
“Well, I think it’s brilliant. This will promote school unity and help heal the divide that has always existed between Slytherin and the rest of the houses. Not to mention the misconceptions about what the Slytherin house and the Slytherin Alumni as a whole stand for.”
Draco was staring out the window, presumably watching the land pass by, so Hermione took the opportunity to study him closely.
His hair was longer and sort of shaggy, like Harry always kept his. Unlike Harry, Draco had worked a bit of gel through it. His eyes were sad when he thought she wasn’t looking. What made him so sad? The war? He was wearing trainers with his uniform. That, combined with the fact he wasn’t wearing his tie, made him look relatable in a way she never would have associated with a Malfoy. She couldn’t help but smile at him.
“We’ll be working together a lot,” She began, but she could tell he hadn’t heard a word. “Draco? Draco? Drake?”
She smiled sheepishly, “It just slipped out.”
“Nobody has ever called me that before. Blaise calls me D and…”
Draco trailed off, but she just smiled at him, “Anyway we will be working together a lot and I know that this carriage ride has been pleasant, but I want to assure you that I will do anything in my power to see that it remains that way.”
“Anything?” he drawled.
Hermione felt her eyebrows rise in shock.
He leaned forward and responded quickly, “Kidding, Hermione.”
She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might look even more surprised that he used her name.
His answering smile was just as impressive as the first. She felt her cheeks start to blush but quelled it quickly. She couldn’t be flustered. He couldn’t be the one to fluster her. She wouldn’t let him be the one to fluster her. Not now. Not when she and Ron were finally ‘back-to-normal’ friends after their split at the beginning of the summer. Although, it would help prove to Ginny that she wasn’t messing around with Harry…
The carriage bounced to a stop in front of the entrance to Hogwart’s. Hermione sat back, relived.
Pushing aside the strange feelings piling up, Hermione reached into her bag and pulled out her shiny Head Girl badge.
“Oy,” Ron swung the door open, revealing Harry and him. “You should put that on, you know.”
“Give the people what they want, ‘Mione.”
“Oh, you’re good at that, aren’t you, Harry? Giving people what they want?”
Hermione dropped the badge in shock and it bounced off Draco’s foot. She was barely aware of him picking it up and wiping the tiny smudge of dirt off of it with his trousers. She was focused on Harry, Ron, and the fuming girl standing in front of them. Ginny was staring at them, anger rolling off of her, and students began to gather, watching the show.
Harry looked back, no anger apparent in his stance or voice when he spoke, “Ginny, We should talk.”
“So what? You can tell me more lies? I know where you were last summer – who you were with!”
Draco dropped the badge and didn’t pick it up. Hermione turned to look at him, confused. She was quickly distracted by Ginny’s raising voice.
“TELL THAT SLAG OF YOURS - ”
“That will be more than enough, Ms. Weasley. I suggest you join your classmates as they gather in the castle.” A petite, stately woman stood behind Ginny, hands on her hips. Her dark raven hair was coiled atop her head and she wore a white sheath dress. Red pumps elevated her to where she stood slightly taller than Ron.
Ginny sneered, giving the woman a once over. Tossing a glare at Hermione over her shoulder, she headed the woman’s warning and flounced into the castle. The woman nodded to the four of them and followed Ginny into the castle.
“Light, mate. You need to talk to her,” Ron laughed, clapping Harry on the back and leading him into the castle.
Hermione reached down to pick up her badge. Draco took it from her and wiped it off again. He leaned over, closing the space between them. Hermione tensed, but he only pinned her badge onto her lapel before leaning back in his seat.
“Shall we?” Draco motioned to the open door.
“Of course,” she stepped out first, smoothing her skirt, and they joined the last few students entering the castle.
Thank you so much for reading. It'd mean the world to me if you would leave a review with any thoughts, comments, or suggeestions.
Thanks a mil, loves.
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